Tonight I have a glow and maybe, just maybe, it’s from something other than all the time in on the bicycle this weekend.  Maybe.  If this marker still provided accurate information, then I would have been standing right on top of buried nuclear waste, in my bicycle shorts.

9562This marker lies out in the middle of a clearing in the middle of the woods, smack dab (I love saying ‘smack dab’) in the way of a singletrack trail at the Palos forest preserve, a Chicagoland treasure.  Now and then I take that trail and I always have to stop to read the marker’s warning.

Caution – Do Not Dig.  Buried in this area is radioactive material from nuclear research conducted here 1943-1949.  Burial area is marked by six corner markers 100 ft. from this center point.  There is XX danger to visitors — U.S. Department of Energy 1978

The buried waste isn’t there any more, but it’s kind of fun to think about.  As well, the marker is a good place to rest.  To get to the meadow it rests in, a long twisting, steep trail has to be traversed, the last 50 yards or so the steepest with a lot of loose sand that complicates the climb.

My friend Jon took the picture of the marker early yesterday morning, sent it to me by text as we rested with our bikes next to the marker.  Riding the trails had been a little bit more complicated due to the moisture falling from the sky at the time, making the trails a bit slick in places.  It didn’t rain enough to stop us from riding three hours.  Jon and I are the dedicated ones, our buddies chose to sleep in since the forecast was very cool temperatures with rain.  Our luck was good.  The rain was light when it did rain.  The low to mid 50’s temperature helped keep us fresh.  I had to cut our ride short, we had planned to ride four hours, a broken left pedal the bad guy that stole that fourth hour from us.  I had plenty left in my tank.

That’s why I was fresh enough to ride another three hours this afternoon.  Since I was riding by myself (I couldn’t coax my sixteen year old off of the couch), I elected to try out a place that was on my list of must see rides — Raceway Woods forest preserve in Carpentersville, Illinois.  Rather than couch potato for the Bears game, I replaced the broken pedal with a spare pedal (I will not lament my hatred of removing pedals from a bicycle — although this removal went fairly smooth), then loaded up the bike on the VW for the 20 mile trip to Raceway Woods.

20151004_172951 20151004_173014What a cool place!  Greeting me as I pulled into the parking lot is the original silo from the old Meadowdale International Raceway that occupied the site from 1938 to 1969.  Once abandoned, the raceway was forgotten and taken over by the woods in and around it.  The silo that had marked the raceway was about to be demolished, but was rescued by locals who wanted to restore the landmark.  After that, the forest preserve was established.

An asphalt path follows the original raceway pavement, still intact in many places, including the pit areas.  The guardrails can still be seen even though the forest claimed them long ago.  Nature trails and singletrack bike trails have been carved into the woods inside and surrounding the original race track.

20151004_164912I went there for a casual ride on the singletrack, but found myself drawn in by imagination, my bike tires riding the same race track that cars had raced on decades ago.  Little side paths called to me to explore, most leading no where except a dead end.  One even ended with a barrier of piled limbs and debris, a no trespassing sign accompanied by the threat of a vicious dog that most certainly lurked beyond the barrier.  I didn’t dare ignore the warning.

Some of the singletrack trails had obviously been established by local mountain bikers, the terrain and remote woods a great place for trails.  Those were the trails I enjoyed exploring the most, one trail leading to a suicidal drop off, avoided by taking another small path to the right, leading to a murderously steep drop into a opening below.  There was a bail out to the right, a narrow path along the top of a berm, a treacherous drop off on the left as it took me to the opening.  From there, it lead to the ominous warning signs at the dead end.

The front of the Raceway Woods was a nice set of singletrack trails, most likely established when the Chicago Area Mountain Bike Riders (CAMBR) trail advocacy group took over maintenance of the Raceway Woods system.  They have established some nice smooth and flowing singletrack trails, especially fun when ridden from the top down, fast with lots of sweeping banked turns and little jumps thrown in for good measure.

The last two months have provided some of the best riding that I have had in years.  My endurance is at a peak, my muscles solid from the exercise, my weight dropping off so much that I…ummmm… well… am not ashamed to look in the mirror so much any more.  Riding will do that to a person.

I am enjoying this while I can.  October is going to zoom by, November will bring colder temperatures and shorter days.  Come December, I will be smiling at the memories of the rides I have had this year.  Good rides.  On a bike I thought I would never have, part of the reason these rides have been so good.  God has been good to me, is reminding me that I am blessed.  God.. and bikes… will do that to a person….

Blood, Sweat, and Gears

The single track trails at Palos Forest Preserve are some of my favorite trails to ride, a treat that I don’t get to indulge in very often simply because getting to them involves braving the traffic on interstates 88/355/55, a long drive with the traffic factor included.  Saturday morning is a different story, the drive a mere 30 minutes or less (the VW dirty diesel likes to go fast).  September is when my road riding friends start thinking mountain bike instead, so most Saturday mornings find me bombing the trails at Palos with friends.  We meet in the Bullfrog parking lot just before sunrise, ready for three hours or more of time on the trails together.

If I come out of a ride without a bump or bruise or contusion or thorn induced scratch or sprain, then it wasn’t a normal Saturday morning ride.  Part of the recipe of guy time is challenge — male bonding must involve a bit of competition and sweat.  Blood, sweat, and gears.  Many of our rides together are remembered by an injury that occurred during that ride:

  • The “Face” ride — Jim literally flew into the first ravine of the Three Ravines trails, his face meeting a limb in mid air.  We pulled a dazed Jim out of the ravine, his face bloodied from a large gash above his eye.  Jim is a tough guy, a liver transplant survivor, and he insisted on riding another two hours with us that day.  He talked nonsense most of that two hours, so it was a bit worrisome.
  • The “Swinging Arm” ride — Jon is one heck of a rider, an energizer bunny type who will just ride and ride and ride and then ride some more.  While riding the XX trail, a series of rocky challenges, Jon’s front wheel met a rock slick and wet, sending him violently down a steep drop off to his right.  His arm hit a rock on the way down, the rock breaking his arm directly below the elbow, rendering his arm useless.  Jon insisted to ride back to the parking lot with us, a series of steep climbs and close to three miles of riding, his arm swinging down at his side as he rode.  How Jon rode back to the parking lot without passing out is a mystery.

And then there is my bum knee.  Cycling is good for keeping the creak out of that joint, until I do something stupid.  When I am out riding with the guys, that is bound to happen sooner or later.  Last year I twisted the knee when I put my foot down at the top of a steep rut, the dirt slick from the morning dew, as I tried to keep my bike from falling into the rut.  I didn’t just feel the pop in my knee as it turned the wrong way while I and my bike fell into that rut.. I heard it pop.  I cried out like a little boy, my friends ready to rescue me.  I pulled myself up, threw my leg back over the bike, and finished the ride.  My knee screamed at me the rest of the way.  I spent the rest of the day and part of the next with my knee propped up, an ice bag in place to hold down the swelling.

20150927_154752Last Saturday was this year’s knee day.  Oops.  Ain’t I gots sexy knees?  Problem is that right now was just a bit swollen.  I would love to say that I messed it up doing something tough.  Nope.  I fell as I was rolling to a stop.  I stood off the seat for a second, then actually missed the seat with my butt as I attempted to sit back down.  Folks, that’s nearly an impossible thing to do.  My butt isn’t petite.

I ignored the knee after I got home Saturday, instead spending the rest of the day outside sealing the asphalt driveway.  The good thing about that was I felt no guilt parking my butt on the couch all Sunday afternoon and evening.  By Monday, most of the swelling was gone.  I feel good today.  Tomorrow I ride again.

Now for the annual guy trip to Brown County, Indiana for two days of mountain biking….

The Grimaces Attack

herriotMost dog owners are the most blessed individuals on this planet, beneficiaries of a love and trust that only is possible from a good, loyal companion.  My sheltie, Nick, is one such dog.  Even at this moment while I am parked on the couch writing this blog, Nick is at my feet, a friend who never seems to tire of my presence.  James Herriot is right on — my dog truly puts a lot of humans to shame with his constant unconditional love, given every day without fail.

Of course, at the moment I am shooing him away.  Nick also has a tendency to stand in front of me and pant heavily, his sewer breath surrounding me in a green cloud.  I’m not sure what Nick wants.  One thing Nick can not do is talk.. or perhaps it’s my inability to understand him.  After all, Nick does communicate with me, sometimes more than I like, his persistence can be a distraction.  What that sometimes means is that we dog owners can not always tell when our animal is ill, at least not right away.

I know what Nick is trying to tell me right now.  He is upset, namely due to his being sequestered to the first floor of our house, while right now the rest of the family is upstairs.  He wants to be there with them, making sure they are OK.  We are afraid to let Nick use the stairs right now, all because the grimaces attacked him over the weekend, ferociously and painfully.  Watching him in the throes of a seizure is such a helpless, frightening feeling, his eyes blank while his rigid body jerks, his jowls a snarling grimace with his tongue turned blue and hanging out of the side of his mouth.

A rare moment Sunday night when we were able to get him to lay down for a few seconds.

A rare moment Sunday night when we were able to get him to lay down for a few seconds.

Grand mal seizures came in clusters, 2-3 per hour, starting at 12:30 AM this past Sunday.  Duration was relatively short, 20 to 90 seconds each.  Sometimes he went into a seizure slowly, Nick seeming to try to fight the seizures off as they came on, a whimper as he felt the tightening, the fear in his eyes evident as he began to lose consciousness.  Perhaps as frightening for me was watching him struggle to sit up and stand as he came out of each seizure, disoriented.  Confused.  It became necessary to block off places where Nick could get stuck, such as underneath tables or behind a cupboard.  So disoriented was my dog that he bumped into walls or chairs as he paced anxiously around the house, often getting stuck in a corner until he came to his senses.  Even then he was afraid to lay down or stand still lest another seizure come on.

He’s laying on my feet right now.

Seizures continued through the night and all day Sunday.  We timed each seizure and kept a log in case the veterinarian needed to know that information.  When it came time for bed on Sunday night, Miriam volunteered to sleep on the couch to watch Nick.  She logged each seizure, the last one at 4:15 AM Monday.  All counted, Nick suffered close to 30 seizures in roughly 28 hours.

We wanted to take him to an emergency vet on Sunday, but, well, this may sound awful, but an emergency veterinary hospital charges an outrageous fee.  As much as we wanted to take him, we just did not have the money or the credit.  Our only choice was to ride things out and hope Nick lived through the night.  There were times when it looked like I was going to lose my friend.

Dog owners know that is inevitable.  Even the most hardy breeds don’t live more than 15 years or so.  That doesn’t keep us from loving our animal.  Maybe it causes us to love him more, the time we have a bit more precious.

I took Nick to the vet early Monday morning.  He was stumbling, weak from the stress, evidenced when he allowed me to pick him up to place him in the front seat of my car.  Nick doesn’t like my car, usually doesn’t allow me to pick him up.  I laughed as he actually seemed to enjoy sitting on the seat next to me as I drove us to the doctor, a nudge on my shifting hand so I would pet him, a lick on my hand to show his appreciation.

Nick had seen the vet last March, blood work and tests done then as he had started to have occasional seizures then.  The diagnosis was simple — epilepsy.  The tests had ruled out liver disease or cancer.  Our vet prescribed Phenol Barbital for the seizures, instructed me to stay with Nick all day in case he had another seizure after I gave the drug to him.  If he did, I was to bring him back in so the drug could be administered intravenously.

Finally, rest.

Finally, rest.

So I worked from home, Nick anxiously standing next to me, his chin occasionally on my knee while I worked, seeking comfort — something we both needed.  By the afternoon, he succumbed to the drug and began to rest.  No more seizures.  My loyal companion will remain so for a few more years, our time together extended.

Happy Trails

My weekends are starting to sound like a broken record.  Guess what I did yesterday?  Guess what I did today?

While those unfortunate road cyclists are lamenting the close of cycling season, we mountain bikers are reveling in that perfect time of year for riding the trails.  Cold weather is OK as long as the trails are dry enough to ride.  Some roadies as well as mountain bikers turn to cyclocross, if racing is their thing.  Others just cry in their beer or energy drink or whatever their choice of liquid refreshment may be.

Yesterday was sublime at my favorite trail system, Saw Wee Kee.  Fearing the recent rain storms may have left the trails too muddy to ride responsibly (I don’t ride if my tires leave a mark on the trail), I waited until midmorning before I loaded up the mountain bike to check out the trails.  My fear was unfounded, the trails tacky instead of muddy, just right for traction and fast riding.  After a warm up lap, I did two more, then showed a rider around the park when he asked me about the best trails to ride.  Instead of telling him, I showed him.  He was close to my age, but he couldn’t keep up even when I intentionally dialed it back.  I don’t hate to say that I enjoyed that!

Today, I played hooky from church, opting for a trip south two hours to Peoria, Illinois to ride some of the trails there with my friend, Jon.  Jon is a hard core roadie who also loves to mountain bike when the road season begins to wind down.  He just finished an epic road ride, Paris-Brest-Paris, a ride that must be finished 85 hours after the start.  Jon made the cut by 5 hours but slept only 3 hours the entire ride.  That’s crazy.  But that’s Jon and it’s one of the reasons he is also an excellent off road rider — it takes a bit of crazy to ride a good mountain bike trail.

And the trails we road today were very good.  We started by riding a small, 7 mile trail system called Black Partridge in Metamora, Illinois.  There are a lot of fun technical sections and bridges that wind through some of the most beautiful Midwest forest that I have seen.  We chose Black Partridge to ride first because of its short length, a good warm up.

A quick bite to eat, then we headed 20 minutes south to the other side of Peoria to a system called Indy.  Indy is one of the systems least talked about in the Peoria area (a system managed by PAMBA — Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association), so it is one of those little gems, a best kept secret of sorts.  A local was leaving the trail as we prepared to go ahead and she shared that same little tidbit with us, a sly grin on her face.

“This is my favorite trail in the area and I am glad no one pays much attention to it.  You are really going to like it.  You probably won’t see anyone out on the trail.  I rarely do.”

She was right in every respect.  Indy’s trails wound and dipped and climbed, giving Jon and I all we could handle, enough that Indy became the last trail we rode today.  There were a lot of steep, narrow, winding, obstacle filled (a lot of roots) climbs all over the park.  The trails had a large number of logs to go over.

Maybe my biggest victory of the day.

Until today, I had a mental block against going logs on my bike.  Small, 4-6″ diameter logs were no problem.  But large logs were an issue as well as piles of logs.  Today, I became a log rolling freak.  One log that I went over would be hard for a hiker to go over.  I went over it without any issue.  The confidence was there once I did it.

It helps having a dual suspension, 29″ wheel bike with excellent clearance.  Buying that bike with my bonus earlier this year, despite the remorse of not saving enough it coming back to bite me now, was still one of the best things I have ever done.  I am enjoying riding like I have never enjoyed it before, largely because I have the best equipment to ride that I have ever had.  Oh, there are a lot more expensive bikes out there, but this one does as much as a bike twice or three times the price.  I LOVE IT!

Since I skipped church this morning, I did have to have some church of my own in my car.  Jon drove separately since he is attending a conference for work in south central Illinois this week.  That gave me the opportunity to talk with God a bit, put some good worship music in the car stereo, sing with it for a while.  One of my favorite CDs, Jars of Clay “Redemption Songs”, has a song on it that became my theme for the day and my drive home.  It’s a hymn most people know, It Is Well With My Soul, their version a very upbeat version.  Maybe it’s nutty, but I listened to that song continuously for probably an hour or more on the way home.  It seemed to fit what I was feeling.

“What ever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”


Until I got home, did my doody, and looked in the pot (not much different than blowing my nose and looking at the result in the Kleenex).  It was deep red.  I panicked, then realized why it was red.  I had Red Vines today and not much else to eat, a little trick of mine I learned from friends.  Red Vines work better than energy gels!  But they also have a lot of red dye in them.

Hmmmm…. where will I ride NEXT weekend?

Night Bison

Unique.  A bit strange.  Spooky at times.  Irreverent.  Challenging.

And incredibly fun.

The Night Bison is a bike event unlike any other bike event I have participated in.  Riding gravel is a novelty on some of the tours I have done, usually a short section of the route that is there just to add a change of pace to one day of a tour.  Night Bison not only is 55 miles of gravel roads, it’s riding on gravel with several hundred people in the DARK.

Do I hear you doubting this whole fun concept?  Oh come on.  Trust me!

I rode this event last year, finished towards the back of the pack.  I will ride this event next year.  Last year I survived while riding a heavy mountain bike.  This year I rode my new light mountain bike, finished towards the front of the pack.  Who knows about next year?  Perhaps I can scrape together the cash for a cross bike, a vehicle that would make me a faster old man.

FB_IMG_1441606839488All riders wait for the starter to give the signal to roll out of the parking lot behind the bike shop in downtown DeKalb, Illinois together.  The ride out of town is a leisurely stroll, a warm up of sorts, a mass exodus as we head to the outskirts of town where we all gather again at a road where the pavement turns to gravel.  The route ahead faces west as the sunset disappears in glorious red tones.  Tall corn lines the road to the left, a few riders taking the last opportunity to pee before the ride starts rolling again.  Riders are bathed in the glow of various LED bike lights and red tail lights.  As the last of sunset’s pink glow begins to fade, the pedals begin to turn.  Clouds of dust surround us, covering each with a fine grey film.

After a short ride west, the route takes a left turn, a line of blue lights bouncing in front of me like a luminous snake in the night as the riders in front turn.  A giant shadow version of shadow bike riders leads me on.  I smile as I see the shadow version of my legs churning away.  Guiding red lights mark my way, beacons that I depend on as the groups of riders spread out, splitting up into smaller groups.  Slowing or stopping is not a real option if I don’t want to get lost in the dark no where.

It was really dark out there.  At one point, I distanced myself from the slower riders behind me, barely keeping the red tail lights of the faster riders in front of me in sight.  A tree covered lane can be really spooky in the dim light of a cheap bike head light.  Take my word for it.  Thank goodness for the reassuring crackle of gravel underneath steady rolling bike tires.

Don’t ask me how fast I was going.  I don’t know.  I don’t have a bike computer or GPS on my mountain bike.  Instead, I just plugged along and focused on keeping my legs pumping at a steady pace.  Last night was a humid night and fairly hot.  There wasn’t a dry spot on my body.

The Night Bison crowd is a bit… ummm… “eclectic”.  There are a lot of tats, beards (even on some ladies), piercings.. more than what I am used to seeing on a typical road ride.  Also different from typical road ride is what is served at the rest stop along the route.  Road rides feature mostly healthy, performance oriented food and drink such as strawberries, oranges, nuts, energy drink and water, maybe a peanut butter sandwich and cookies.  The rest stop at the Night Bison featured coolers of beer, a whiskey bottle on a table with paper shot glasses, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Pepsi.  There also were jugs of water.  The rest stop was over 40 miles into the ride, my legs a bit tired, especially since this dummy forgot to raise his seat from singeltrack height before starting the ride.  So I imbibed, took a shot of whiskey (cough, cough, cough).  I don’t know if it was a mental edge or what, but I think I am going to start carrying a flask on long rides from now on!

My buddies had ridden ahead of me a few miles after the start, but somehow I managed passing them in the dark without knowing it.  They are strong, fast riders, but I finished before they did.  I got to my car, toweled off, changed clothes, and sat next to the side of the road with some cold water while I waited.  We enjoyed the pizza at the end of the ride (another thing not usually seen at road events), a few cold brews and stories of what we saw or heard in the night.  My friend, Jon, who hitched a ride with me, actually popped a spoke mid way through the ride and rode a lot of the ride with a wheel rubbing against the brake.  Jon is a strong rider who recently finished a ride called Paris-Brest-Paris in a little over 80 hours, on three hours sleep.  The guy can ride.

This riding season is turning into one of the best I have had in a few years.  I am riding well, finding good rides and places to ride — Tacos one week, Night Bison the next!

I Eat A Mustache and Survive

Yesterday I discovered that it is possible to eat tacos all day while also riding a bicycle more than 62 miles.  No, I do not mean that I actually ate a taco while riding a bicycle.  That would be quite the challenge.  I wear my tacos enough as it is.

20150830_114103The smiling guy in the picture is my friend, Ben.  Ben and a few friends decided to ride their own personal one day tour of their favorite taco stands in Chicago, a pub crawl set to the tune of taco.  That little excursion turned into a once a year tour called ‘Rando de Taco’, moved out to the suburbs of Chicago and organized by the original three taco riders.  The ride is 62 miles that starts at the Roundhouse restaurant in Aurora, Illinois to follow the Fox River trail north to East Dundee, then heads east to Wheaton and finally back to the Roundhouse.  There are 5 planned stops at taco stands along the way.  Each rider is “required” to eat one taco at each stop.  Beverages are optional.

At the beginning of the ride, the challenge is to find 4 riders for your team, if you don’t have a team to ride with already.  I didn’t have a team, part of the fun of it as far as I am concerned.  As it turned out, I met a new friend named Julie at the start and we joined up with 2 friends, Jeff and Gina, that I knew from a ride I did with Ben last July 3rd, plus three others (Greg, Glenn, and Dan).

Front row: Julie, Gina, Glenn, Greg Back row: Yours truly and Jeff (Dan had already gone home)

Front row: Julie, Gina, Glenn, Greg
Back row: Yours truly and Jeff
(Dan had already gone home)

We had a blast.. and I now have six new friends.  There is something about sharing a long bike ride, a unique experience, plus tacos and horchata that brings a special bond.  These people feel like my brothers and sisters.

The ride left the Roundhouse en masse at roughly 10:30 AM, a swarm donned in sombreros, fake mustaches, and a variety of other costumes.  Three miles later, we hit our first taco stand in North Aurora, a small hole in the wall.  Since Julie and I had invited ourselves into the group of five, we had to fend for each other at each taco stand.  We decided to start off easy with chicken tacos.  Tacos consumed our group of 7 rolled back onto the path towards St. Charles for our second taco stop, the Jalapeno Grill.  Julie bought the tacos (shrimp and pork) there plus my first horchata (a spiced rice drink) of the day.

20150830_115306The second taco went down a little slower.  Surprisingly, I didn’t feel any ill affects from the two tacos I had consumed.  As a matter of fact, the tacos didn’t affect my riding at all the entire ride.  Four of our seven team members were riding cross bikes and I was riding my new 29″ mountain bike.  My guess is that keeping pace with the cross bike riders may have taken the focus off of the tacos in my stomach.

East Dundee was the third taco stop.  My fake mustache was getting a bit crooked.  I was also hooked on horchata, a necessity by then due to the high humidity of the day.  The fish taco I bought was the best taco of the day, but it also turned into a fuzzy taco.  My mustache did not survive the fish taco and somehow became part of the taco.  Also, the taco loomed large as I tried to eat it, my stomach already full of taco.  I survived to the last bite, burped a fishy belch, and climbed back on my bike to ride with my new friends.  Wheaton was our next stop, a long ride from East Dundee.  That was a good thing.  I needed to ride a while to be ready for the next taco.

20150830_134351I saw a lady driving a car at a stoplight, chewing on a large cigar.  True story.

Asada taco at the Wheaton taco stop.  Thank goodness it was a small taco. We were also a little past mile 50.  Our group savored and paused over our tacos at the Wheaton stop, enjoying the company quite a bit more as we had gotten to know each other in between taco stops.  I swear that we stopped at one point between East Dundee and Wheaton (Wayne, Illinois) just so we could spend some time talking to each other.    It was funny how our group fell into a routine early in the ride — Jeff and Dan taking the lead out on their cross bikes, Julie and I on their wheel on our mountain bikes, Gina tight on my back wheel with Glenn and Greg in tow.  Occasionally one of us would take the front, allowing Dan and Jeff to relax behind us.

Wheaton.. taco stop four

Wheaton.. taco stop four

We cleaned up a little when we got to the finish, posed for the picture I posted earlier in this blog, then enjoyed one last taco and some beverages before calling it a day.  Julie had been like my sister from another mother from the beginning of the ride, so when our new friends found out as we talked over beers at the Roundhouse that Julie and I had just met in the parking lot that morning, they were surprised.  They assumed we had known each other for a long time!  It was a good day with people who became special friends… all because of a ride we shared.

Last taco, a pork taco at the Roundhouse.

Last taco, a pork taco at the Roundhouse.

Rando de Taco may be my favorite bike tour… ever.. or at least until the next one.

Campus Ready

If you can’t see the smile of satisfaction broadly navigating my face as I write tonight’s blog, you never will.  When it’s bike related and daughter related, I can’t help myself.

My daughter is about to head back to college to begin her sophomore journey.  This Tuesday I get to pack up her stuff, drive four hours, then unpack it.  There is both joy and sadness in that adventure — joy from watching my little girl take another baby step towards that woman she is becoming, and sadness from watching my little girl take another baby step towards that woman she is becoming.  Doggone it if that double edged sword isn’t slicing my heart in two.

Yes, I am still smiling.


I had the privilege of spending the afternoon and a bit of this evening prepping her campus cruiser for another year.  Cables, housings, and basket were replaced.  The seven speed derailleur was cleaned and adjusted.  Somehow every creak and squeak was eliminated, proven by a quiet test ride around the block (and again and again… the fat tired rocking chair is kind of fun to ride).  Amazed at the success of the tune up as well as the appearance of the cruiser when finished, I had to take pictures.  This bike sat outside a dormitory an entire school year, including snow and rain.  When I started on the bike earlier this summer, I was not surprised that the shift and rear brake cables were seized.  I was surprised at how well the bike bounced back.  The seven speed Shimano shifter worked flawlessly once it was cleaned, greased, and the cable/housing replaced.

Yes, this bike nerd is definitely smiling.

On a sadder yet triumphant note, the first Craigslist visitor to see my old Bianchi bicycle bought her.  He tried to hide his smile, but I saw the same excitement in his eyes that I had when I first saw her.  This is someone who will appreciate my old bike.  There was a bit of disappointment as I think he thought that the wheels on the bike would be good enough to ride.  I was real honest, told him that the wheels look good but have always been trash, put the bike up on a workstand to give them a spin and let him listen to the horrid bearings in the wheel.  There is no denying the beauty of that Bianchi, though, and he couldn’t resist, even as he made one weak plea for a a better price as he dug the asking price money out of his pocket.  He paid the asking price.

He did ask me if my titanium Serotta was for sale.  Nope, nope, and again I say nope.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

20150822_075025A few hours from now, I may become Judas, betraying my beautiful savior for a modern day equivalent of thirty pieces of silver.  A customer who answered my Craigslist ad will be coming to take a look at my 1990s vintage Bianchi Campione D’Italia, a celeste Italian goddess with curves that will evoke the lust of any cyclist, a double lugged steel framed Aphrodite (believe me, I picked the correct greek goddess) that is pure pleasure to ride.  His desire was obvious in his email response to my ad, the lure of Venus a temptation too great for him to handle.

“How soon can I see her.  I can’t wait.  She looks stunning.”

I understand, you leering john.  Years ago she pulled me in the same way, her vision a siren’s song impossible to resist.  I was desperate, weak, incapable of resistance, my current love cruelly parting with the crack of her delicate frame at the moment I really needed her — the last two days of RAGBRAI.  Unable to fully absorb the loss, my first love hangs in the back corner of my garage dungeon.  So when a friend offered her to me from his stable of beauties, parading her in front of me like one his harlots, I did not even try to resist.  That day I took her home, bathed her and restoring her, exposing even more of her beauty.


Our first ride was spectacular, dreamlike, one I will remember the rest of my life.  Never before had a bike responded to me like my celeste Bianchi, her appreciation of the power I gave to her evident in the way she moved with my every thrust.  I had never felt anything like that before.  We met a group of cyclists shortly into that first ride, turned around and joined them, eager to show off my new love.  That day we went the distance, more than 70 miles, at or near the front the entire way.  I beamed as those riders admired my new Italian girlfriend, felt no pain as we worked perfectly together.

There were a few kinks to work out.  Though appealing, her Italian components (Campagnolo Mirage) were not practical to me.  For some reason, I preferred the utility of the Japanese components from my previous girl, so I stripped them from my useless old girl and replaced the Italian on my new Bianchi.  To some that was sacrilege, taking some of the luster from my curvy beauty.  She seemed to like me more after that, though, faster and quieter.  I liked that too.


My customer wants the original Italian components, appreciating their precise appeal as a nostalgic work of art.  They are still in excellent shape.  I didn’t use them much.

20150822_075201Bianchi was my constant companion for a few years until lithe Serotta caught my eye, her dazzlingly sleek titanium a stunning contrast to the curves of my Bianchi.  Not only is Serotta responsive, she is light.  I knew that I had to have her the moment I laid eyes on her.  From that day on, Bianchi has been second to Serotta.  Serotta has my full attention, Bianchi coming out now and then just for a short ride.

If I sell her, I will miss her a lot.  A lot of me wants to keep her simply because she is such a work of art, beautiful in a way most of the expensive technological carbon machines can not be.  Bianchi is unique.  My intent has been to keep her until the day when I can give her my undivided attention again, her ageless beauty something to be appreciated.  Unfortunately, it is time.  I did make an appeal yesterday on Facebook, hoping that a friend would buy her and allow me visiting privileges.  One responded, saying that she is too gorgeous for the utility (winter trainer) he would use her for.  He’s right.

You gave me some wonderful years, sweet Bianchi.